What is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT)?

Balancing self-acceptance and change

At times, emotions can feel overwhelming for all of us. Yet for some people, managing difficult or intense feelings can be an ongoing struggle.

As a result, they might find themselves developing unhelpful coping strategies, such as binge eating, use of drugs or alcohol, or self-harm. They might also struggle with impulsive behaviours, experience mood swings or struggle with feelings of rejection from others.

DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy) can help you learn how to manage your emotions more effectively. In essence, it will equip you with the skills needed to tolerate difficult and painful feelings. With DBT, you can learn to choose how you respond to situations and triggers, rather than feeling that your emotions are ruling you.

How does DBT work?


DBT has four key parts: mindfulness skills, interpersonal effectiveness skills, distress tolerance skills and emotion regulation skills.

Mindfulness means learning to be aware of how you are feeling and accepting it without judgement. Interpersonal effectiveness is about learning how to communicate more assertively with others and also how to have stronger, healthier boundaries.

Distress tolerance skills teach you how to get through times of heightened emotion. Emotion regulation will help you understand the purpose of emotions so that you can learn to accept them rather than pushing them away. It will also help you to become more aware of the things that affect your emotions, for instance tiredness or self-critical thoughts.

Key tasks in DBT include keeping a diary to monitor your emotions and responses; learning to identify the roots of unhelpful behaviours and reactions, and exploring your vulnerabilities and triggers. This way, you can gain a greater understanding of both your inner self and your relationship to the outside world.

The full DBT treatment package combines weekly individual and group sessions, but you can also benefit from having one-to-one sessions with a therapist. The overall goal of this therapy is to help you find a deep acceptance of yourself while at the same time, moving towards growth and change. Finding the balance between the two is at the heart of DBT.

What can DBT help with?


Borderline personality disorder, suicidal behaviour, depression or low mood, eating issues, anger, addiction, trauma, complex trauma, teen issues.

Your next step


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